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To all the people who died in the tragic occurrence of the Columbine Massacre. They will never be forgotten.
“Emmee. Emmee. Wake up!” a voice softly calls, awakening me from my deep sleep.
“Hmm…” I mumble sleepily.
“Emmee, it’s time for school.” The voice insists.
“School?” I ask, still half dreaming.
“Yes, Emmee. School. The place where you learn.” The voice says impatiently. “Now get up!”
I open my eyes to see my mother standing over me, hands on her hips. I sit up groggily and try to pull myself together.
“When you’re finished getting ready, come downstairs. I have a surprise for you.” My mom says, and hurries down the hallway before I get a chance to question her. A surprise? I know I’m fifteen and shouldn’t be getting excited over a “surprise”, but I can’t help it. I need to know what it is.
I leap out of bed, now fully awake. I rummage through my drawers and look for anything I can throw on. I must get downstairs.
This is ridicules. I’m acting like an eight year old. But all the same, I find myself accidentally putting my shoes on the wrong feet in my excitement. Way to go Emmee.
I pound down the stairs, full of excitement.
“Okay Mom. I’m ready. What’s my…” I trail off. There in front of me is my older sister Camille, who has been away at college this whole year.
“Camille?” I ask, shocked. I’ve been missing her so much. It’s been a year since I’ve seen her last. She left in August. It’s April. Camille grins excitedly.
“Hey Em-” I don’t give her time to finish. I run and throw my arms around her.
“Whoa! Careful! You’re gonna knock me over!” Camille laughs.
“Oh Camille! You have no idea how much I’ve missed you! I have so many things to tell you-” I start.
“Emmee! You’re gonna miss the bus!” Mom calls from the kitchen.
“Later.” Camille promises. I smile gratefully at her and hurry to finish my breakfast. I call a quick good-bye to my mom, Camille, and my five-year-old brother Eric.
As I jog down the street to the bus stop, I notice how unbelievably humid it is outside. Within five minutes, I am sweating. Wonderful. Now the bus will smell great! I think sarcastically. The bus pulls up and I board quickly, eager to get out of the beating sun. Immediately, I find that I was right about the bus’s stench. I wrinkle my nose in disgust and fight my way down the aisle to the back of the bus. I find an empty seat in the middle and sit down. I pull out my phone to check it one last time before I go into school.
One new message.
I open it and see that it’s from Macie.
Hey meet me in the library @ free period.
Macie is my best friend and has been since first grade. I often puzzle over the fact that we are so different, yet so… well… the same. What I mean is, Macie and I couldn’t look more different. Macie is gorgeous, and I’m not just saying that because she is my best friend. I really mean it. She has long black hair that cascades down her back and shining brown eyes that are full of emotion. Her smile can brighten a room and she’s just the right height, 5”7. I know, I know. It sounds like I’m jealous. Well the truth is… I am. I wish I could be as pretty as Macie, I really do.
I have long, brown hair, but it doesn’t fall down my back like Macie’s. It’s just kind of… well… there. My eyes are brown, but they’re not full of warmth like Macie’s. They’re kind of dark and uninviting. And, to top it all off, I’m a giant. Well, not really but, you know what I mean. I’m 5’9“.
Anyways, despite my subtle jealousy of Macie’s looks, we get along perfectly, like sisters, although we never fight. We’ve been best friends since the beginning of time, and that’s how it’ll always be.
The bus pulls into the school parking lot. Snapping my phone shut, I practically run off, thankful for the fresh air that erases the terrible smell of the bus from my memory. I hurry into school and head for my first period.
Even though the first classes go smoothly, I’m still relieved, when free period comes. I hurry to the library. When I get there, Macie is at our usual table in the corner.
I love the library, and it’s not just because I like to read. I like the warm, cozy feeling you get when you walk in. I love how the huge, dark brown bookshelves blend with the soft red carpet. I love how it’s always peaceful in there, making it a perfect getaway from the noisy, crowded hallways.
“Hey!” Macie calls, looking upset.
“Hey. I got your text. What’s up?” I question, sitting down across from her.
“I found out we have a huge test in Math in two days!” she says in anguish.
“Oh. Is that all?”
“Is that all? Is that all? Math is my worst subject! I’m gonna fail for sure!” Macie cries. I want to say, “No you’re good at Math! You’ll do fine!”, but then, I’d be lying. She just doesn’t seem to be able to allow the concepts to work their way into her brain the way I do. Unlike Macie, I love Math. I understand it perfectly. I love the way the numbers all come together to solve a problem. But Macie…well… Let’s just say that Macie is quite bad at Math, and we both know it. But I feel like I shouldn’t just sit here and listen to her moan about how badly she’ll do on the test, so I decide to help her. After all, that’s what best friends are for.
“Not if I can help it!” I say. “Get out your book and I’ll help you study.”
“You’d do that?” she asks hopefully.
“Of course!” I respond.
She grins. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
“C’mon! Let’s get started.” For the next hour, Macie and I study like crazy. Just as she is starting to get the idea, I hear a strange noise. It sounds like a BANG. I don’t pay much attention to it. But then, the librarian flies into the room. Everyone looks up at her in shock, because it isn’t every day that you see a librarian run into the room. She is panting, but she manages to yell, “Everyone under the tables! Quick! GET UNDER THE TABLES NOW!”
We stare at her. Mrs. Green is normally a calm woman who yells at anyone who isn’t quiet in “her library”. Now, her hair, which is usually so neatly pulled back in a bun, is falling out. And she looks terrified. I don’t know what to think.
“What is going on?” Macie whispers.
“I don’t know. Why are we…?” BANG! This time it’s louder. Mrs. Green’s eyes are wild with terror.
“Children, I need you to listen to me! Get under the tables!” she yells again, and dives under the nearest table. Something about the tone of her voice tells me to obey. I crouch under the table next to Macie.
“This is mad.” She comments under her breath. BANG! Now, I am getting nervous. This noise has been getting louder and louder. I don’t know what it is… though it sounds like a…
“Oh… my… gosh.” Macie whispers. Two figures dressed in black walk through the door. They are both holding… guns.
Oh no. Not here. Not now. Panic washes over me and Macie grabs my arm. I never dreamed that this could ever happen. In fact, I don’t believe it. This is all a dream… it can’t be real! I shut my eyes, trying to make it all go away.
“Please wake up! Please wake up!” I mutter. “Ouch!”
Macie is squeezing my arm so hard, she is leaving a mark. This isn’t a dream.
It’s a nightmare.
The two figures start shooting furiously around the library. People are screaming in fear and agony. Mrs. Green is on the phone with the police.
“Yes! Yes! In the library! Kids, stay under the table!” she screams into the phone and to us. I couldn’t even move if I wanted to. Fear has consumed by body. I turn to look at Macie.
Then, something awful happens.
It seems like slow motion when it happens. The gunman is suddenly standing in front of us. His mouth turns up into a wicked smile before he pulls the trigger. I hear the violent crack of the gun…
And watch the bullet hurl into the chest of my best friend.
My entire world caves in. Suddenly, I can’t hear the screams of the other kids. I watch in sheer horror as Macie plummets backwards and lands on the ground with a soft thud. Her chest is already seeping blood.
I come crashing down to reality as suddenly as I was away. Macie whimpers softly, a sound that breaks my heart into thousands of pieces.
“Emmee.” She whispers. I crawl to her side. She reaches a trembling hand out to me. Tears begin to fling themselves at the back of my eyes. This can’t be happening. Macie and I were supposed to go to college together. We were supposed to live together after college.
But now, none of these things will happen. The tears come out now, spilling out faster than a waterfall.
“I’m here Macie.” I choke. Her hand is cold. But it’s gripping mine with surprising force.
“I’ll… miss… you.” She says slowly. Every word is a struggle for her. I close my eyes, making more tears fall out. This is not happening. This is not happening. But when I open my eyes again, Macie is still lying on the ground, blood pooling next to her, staring at me with empty brown eyes.
“No Macie! You can’t leave me!” I cry, the terror of my best friend leaving this world setting in.
“No choice…” she murmurs, her eyes beginning to close. I squeeze her hand harder.
“No! Please!” I yell. “Please, please, please don’t die Macie!”
But as I’m saying this, her eyes shut permanently. Her breathing stops. The blood just keeps pouring out of her, but she can no longer feel it. She can’t feel my gripping her hand any longer.
The pain of losing Macie is so bad, it actually physically hurts. I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact that she’s dead. Tears blur my vision. I can’t take this.
Macie is dead… Macie is dead…
Suddenly, I am furious. No, I’m beyond furious. I am in rage. Anger courses through my veins and overtakes me. Before I can stop myself, I’m standing up and walking towards the shooter who killed Macie.
“Hey! Hey you!” I scream. “You idiot! You just killed my best friend! She did nothing to you? Why are you even doing this, huh? Why? Just tell me if you have a legitimate reason for my best friend being dead!” Even as I say it, it sounds wrong.
“I’d watch it, girl. In case you haven’t noticed I’m the one with a gun here. So I suggest you shut up and get back under the table with your stupid dead friend.” He snaps, pointing his gun at me. I don’t even care about his stupid gun. I seethe with anger. I can feel it boil up inside me until… I explode.
“SHE IS NOT STUPID! YOU’RE THE STUPID ONE! YOU KILLED MY BEST FRIEND! YOU HAVE NO PROBLEM SHOOTING DOWN KIDS FOR NO REASON! IT’S SICK! YOU KILLED MACIE AND SHE DIDN’T EVER DO ANYTHING TO YOU! NEVER!” I shriek in rage. Macie is gone, and she can’t ever come back. Hot tears of anger spill out of my eyes. I am screaming so loud I am making my head hurt. I want everything to be the way it was before. I just want my best friend back.
“You killed my best friend, and she never did anything to you.” I choke. I hear a bang.
Then, everything goes black.
Ring! Ring! The phone chimes urgently from the table next to the couch. I sigh. Why does someone need me now? I’m right at the good part! I shut my book and lay it down beside me before reaching for the phone. A quick glance at the Caller ID tells me it’s my best friend, Adeline.
“Hey.” I say when I pick up.
“Oh Adrianna! Thank God! Listen, I’m down at Columbine and something horrible has happened! You need to get down here! I can’t tell you on the phone!” Adeline breathes. She can hardly talk she’s breathing so hard. I can hear tears in her voice. Police sirens sound in the background. Adeline tries to go on, but her voice becomes drowned out by people’s screams. I don’t care. I’ve heard enough.
I drop the phone and run to the car.
Ten minutes later…
I am standing in the parking lot of my daughter’s school, shocked beyond words. I see police cars surrounding the perimeter and crowds of people are outside. Students are crying and hugging. I see a student being lowered out the window into the arms of a waiting paramedic. I don’t know what is going on. All’s I know is it’s something bad and I need to find Adeline.
I rush through the crowd, shoving people aside as I do.
“Adeline! Adeline!” I scream, looking for her familiar face.
“Adrianna! Over here!” I whip around to see Adeline pushing through some people to get to me.
“What’s going on?” I ask when we meet.
“Oh Adrianna!” Her eyes are red and swollen, confusion and hurt stamped in them. She covers her mouth, trying in vain to catch her breath. “Two gunmen entered the school today.” She manages to choke out. My heart lurches into my throat.
“They think that they were two students attending Columbine. They started shooting people down all over the school. They entered the library… where Emmee and Macie were during their free period.” Adeline pauses and takes a deep breath as tears began to fall from her eyes. I realize I’ve been holding my breath too.
“They killed Macie and Emmee,” she chokes, than breaks down into tears, falling to the ground and sobbing.
Whatever I expected Adeline to say, it wasn’t this. I am frozen, frozen solid. I feel like my feet are rooted to the ground. How did two gunmen get into the school? What did Emmee do wrong? Why? A billion questions fill my brain. But there’s one that stands out. Why did they kill my sweet, innocent daughter?
That’s when the tears come spilling out, like a fountain, and soon, I am on the ground next to Adeline. I can’t take this pain. This isn’t happening. This isn’t real. It can’t be! This is a nightmare!
Two weeks later…
I haven’t been the same since my sister died. I haven’t smiled since the morning she left for school. I haven’t laughed. In fact, I don’t think I ever will. I know they say when someone you love dies, they’re in a better place, and I guess they’re right. I mean, I know for a fact that Emmee would much rather be in heaven than in a school watching her friends be shot by two psychos with guns. I still tear up every time I think of her, the wonderful life she lived, and the horrible death she died. I’ve been in a daze since my mother came home crying with the news that shattered my world. But today, I have to get my act together. I’m at a memorial service for all who died in the “Columbine Massacre”, as they now call it. I have been asked to give a speech in honor of my sister. I agreed. My mom, Eric, and I got in the car an hour ago and headed to the school in silence. Eric has been greatly affected, maybe even more than me. His usual smile isn’t there anymore, and he hardly ever talks. I miss the old him almost as much as Emmee… almost.
After hearing a touching speech given by Macie’s older brother who attended Columbine along with her, it’s my turn.
“Now Camille Ramirez is going to give a speech in honor of her younger sister, Emmee. Camille?” The principal of Columbine, who has coordinated this service, says.
I take a shaky breath and look over at my mom. She gives me a watery smile, which is more than she’s done in two weeks. I try to smile back, but my lips won’t work. Instead, I focus on trying to make it to the podium without falling apart. When I finally make it there, which seems like it took twenty minutes instead of two seconds, I look around. The turnout for the service is unbelievable. Everyone is seated on the lawn in the front of the school. A nice breezes wafts through the air. It’s a beautiful day, one that Emmee would have loved. I try not to think about it. Everyone is staring at me expectantly. I know I must begin. I look down at the paper in front of me, full of empty words about Emmee, words that have no feeling. Before I can stop myself, my hands reach down and tear the paper in half. Everyone looks at me in shock as I toss it off the podium.
“I was going to stand here and tell you about the life that my sister lived. I was going to tell you all about her and what she meant to me. But then, just now, I realized that it isn’t so much what she did that was important, but what she left behind.” No one talks. In fact, it seems like no one breathes. I take a deep breath before I continue.
“I always knew my sister was a special person. But it wasn’t until she died that I realized how many other people thought the same. We’ve gotten so many beautiful letters in the mail from people all over, some we didn’t even know knew Emmee. She has never turned down an opportunity to help someone, and perhaps that’s what made her so easy to remember.”
When my mom came home with the news about my sister, I didn’t think it was possible. I mean, who could have a heart wicked enough to kill my sister? But it wasn’t a joke. Emmee was dead, and nothing could bring her back. I think that’s the part that killed me the most. I’ve always been Emmee’s protector. She’s my little sister, so I’ve always looked out for her. But this time, there was nothing I could do.” I stop because I’m getting choked up. I glance over at my mom and see silent tears streaming down her face. But there’s a soft smile on her face, and it gives me the strength to go on.
“Emmee’s body may be gone, but her spirits moves on. It leaves us with a memory of her, a gentle whisper of her voice in our ears, her soft touch on our arms.” I take a shaky breath. I don’t want to say what I’m going to say next, but I have to.
“When my dad, Jason Ramirez, died a few years ago, Emmee was greatly affected. After all, she was the one who was closest to him. She was the one who knew exactly how he was feeling all the time. She had his eyes, his smile, his way of doing things. She was the spirit of my dad. She brought us back to him. Now that she’s dead, we thought more of my dad would be gone too. But we were wrong. I’m sure he’s glad that Emmee has joined him. Now that they’re together, their memory burns strong like a fire in our souls. Emmee is my sister. Not was, is. Jason is my dad. Not was, is. Because even though they’re technically gone, they’re still here in a way. They’re alive in each and every person who they knew and loved. And we will never, ever forget them.” I finish. When I look out at the faces of the crowd, I see that many of the people who were fine before I started are crying now. I step down from the stand, pick up the pieces of my old speech, and throw them in the garbage on the way back to my seat.
After the ceremony is over, my mom, Eric, and I walk back to our car.
“Camille!” I hear an unfamiliar voice call my name. I turn around and see a lady walking quickly towards me. Her makeup is all over her face, so I know she’s been crying. At first, I think she’s got to be a relative of one of the kids who died.
“Your speech was beautiful.” She chokes. I smile.
“Thank you very much.” I say. The lady’s eyes well up and she presses a tissue up to them. I wait patiently for her to continue, because I know she has more to say.
“I’m Eric Harris’s mother.” She says finally. I raise my eyebrows, trying to place the name Eric. Was he a friend of Emmee’s? One of the kids who died?
“One of the shooters.” She whispers. My heart stops. Hot anger bubbles up from inside me.
“Oh.” I say, because I don’t think I can say too much more without exploding.
“I have to tell you…” she struggles to get the words out. “I never thought my son was capable of something so evil. I mean, I still love him more than anything in the world, but…I just want to…” she trails off as more tears spill out from her eyes. My anger vanishes and I find myself feeling extremely sorry for this lady. After all, it wasn’t her fault that her son did this.
“I just want to say how I’m so, so, so sorry about your loss.” She sobs. “It makes it even harder because I know my son was the one who caused this. I wish I had known what he was planning to do… If only I had stopped him!” She breaks off again.
Slowly, I reach my hand out and take hers. She looks down in surprise, then up at me again.
“This isn’t your fault Mrs. Harris. Nobody blames you.” I say quietly. She gives me a watery smile.
“Thank you dear. Again, I can’t even begin to tell you how extremely sorry I am…” Her words are swallowed again as another wave of tears come. I feel tears coming out of my own eyes as I reach my arms out and hug the lady whose son killed my sister. She hugs me back, and we cry together.